Called to Unjust Suffering

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), December 22

Unknown“But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Pet. 2:20-21)

Suffering. No thank you. No, really, I shouldn’t have to. Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll give it a pass.

How can anyone endure hurled insults or, in modern terminology, verbal abuse and wounding, especially when Christian psychologists tell us we don’t have to and that we must draw boundaries to prohibit abusers access to our lives? Try telling that to Joseph, who endured constant sexual harassment in the workplace, experienced character assassination, and false imprisonment. Or to Christ, who suffered unjustly as he “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose wounds you were healed (2:24)“

Peter quotes Psalm 34:12-16 to offer several keys to enduring unjust suffering:

  • Restrain your words – “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit” (3:10).
  • Commit to doing good – “Let him turn away from evil and do good” (3:11a).
  • Value and seek peace – “Let him seek peace and pursue it” (3:11b).
    Practice the presence of God – “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers.” (3:12a).
  • Trust God to defend you – “But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil” (3:12:b).

Your view of God will determine whether you trust him during times of suffering and whether you endure seasons of suffering.

Suffering becomes useless in our lives if we allow bitterness to creep in, anger against God or others to form a wall around our hearts, and when we attempt to bail out of our suffering (much suffering is inescapable) through escape mechanisms (drugs and alcohol, over-eating, over-exercising, over-sleeping, retail therapy, etc.,).

It is no surprise then, that Peter drops the subject of suffering into the middle of his teaching on submission. No one has a problem with submission as long as things are going well; it is when difficulty arises that we rebel. That’s why he instructs wives to submit to their husbands, just as Sarah did with Abraham. When does Sarah practice submission? During twofold suffering:

  • When they travel to Egypt to escape famine and she is taken into Pharaoh’s harem, and later when she is taken into Abimelech’s harem (Gen. 12, 20).
  • When Abraham uses her as a shield instead of trusting God to keep His promise of shielding him (Gen. 15:1). How does Sarah respond? She “trusted in God” (1 Pet. 3:5-6). God comes through for her. Not once, but twice. He sends a plague on Pharaoh, and he awakens and threatens to kill Abimelech if he doesn’t release Sarah.

Yes, we will suffer unjustly. God, however, works redemptively in the midst of our suffering if we will trust Him.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (1 Pet. 2:4-5:11):
How does Peter describe the lifestyle of sojourners and pilgrims?
How do sojourners and pilgrims differ from those around them?
Throughout his epistle Peter seems to integrate submission with suffering. What role does submission play in suffering?